Educational Tech Review: Swivl

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours evaluating SWIVL for potential use at the University of Houston (UH). I thought I would jot down my early impressions of the potential usability and value of SWIVL for academic institutions.

SWIVL jumped onto the scene as a Kickstarter project in December 2012 and has delivered on its promise to create a multipurpose motion and tracking platform. The company highlights the educational use cases for SWIVL for flipped classrooms, lecture capture, distance education, and collaboration. Educational institutions are the source of 75-80 percent of their business and they have received additional capital to guarantee the launch of the second generation of SWIVL devices.

There is a growing body of data highlighting the urgency for simple, effective video integrations. Over the decade represented below, students selecting distance education courses increased by 150 percent. Projections show that by the end of 2013, 18 percent of undergraduate students will receive 80 percent of their credits through distance education courses.


After conducting a few small focus groups at UH, the data pointed to a common sense conclusion: faculty, staff, and students want a hassle-free way to record and upload course-related video. While enterprise lecture capture systems still have value at large universities, we found that many users want more agile and spontaneous approaches to content creation and distribution. Using our user personas and use cases we identified several requirements for video capture:

1. Simple

Can the device be setup in less than five minutes by someone who has never used it before?

2. Wireless

Whether giving a lecture or creating videos in student groups, the device must enable and even encourage movement and action. With the varied classroom layouts and differences in departmental needs, it’s also important that the device be able to function unplugged.

3. Open

The bottom line is that we want to empower faculty, staff, and students to create, share, and learn using their preferred applications while giving them full control over their content. The device must be easy to integrate with the many applications and services at UH (e.g., WordPress, YouTube, Drupal, Moodle, Blackboard Learn, etc.).

4. Affordable

In order to impact the curriculum and pedagogy, we have to actually get these devices into users’ hands. This means that the device must be affordable and require very little external support.

5. Scalable

The device and supporting applications should be capable of supporting usage that will exceed current rates. Special care should be taken to address the challenge of maintaining efficiency while allowing flexibility.

So how did SWIVL do?


+simple setup
+easy sharing
+quality audio
+remote activated record
+tripod mount
+battery and AC powered
+speaker tracking[/twocol_one]


-uneven tracking
-awkward adjustment wheel
-requires iPhone or iPod Touch to use remote and microphone
-only pans, no tilt[/twocol_one_last]



I originally created this video for internal use only but here is the quick overview and demonstration for those of you interested in seeing the performance of SWIVL without audio or video effects with an iPhone 4S in an empty classroom:


2 responses to “Educational Tech Review: Swivl”

  1. Have you found this useful?

    From your empty classroom test, I think you might run into problems when students are in the class. The camera/swivl would need to be placed higher so that heads & bodies do not block the view of the remote.

    I could see this being used when evaluating student teachers, especially for younger age groups when the teacher needs to meander about the class providing individual attention to their students. I would probably use the Swivl video in a smaller frame, unless viewing the instructor’s movements were absolutely necessary. But, you could capture the digital feed (projected to whiteboard) video and maybe combine the two for effect.

    I saw someone trying the Swivl outdoors. He managed to get about 20 feet away. The audio was still great because it was being sent directly to the iPhone. Maybe some outdoor activity such as athletics, or maybe ROTC field formations.

  2. Nathan Graham Avatar
    Nathan Graham

    Good points. The base for the Swivl allows you to mount it to a tripod and that’s what I’ve recommended for faculty in the past. I’ve also seen universities add mounts to the classroom walls for the Swivl.

    You’re right that teacher evaluation and professional development is a really good use for it. I know a couple of universities that are considering using these to observe and evaluate TAs and GAs. It would also make sense for K-12 programs for teaching fellows.

    I usually recommend using Swivl in a smaller frame (as you point out) for a number of reasons. In my experience, the main reason is that iOS devices deliver much better video quality for close ups of speakers. The bluetooth lapel mic is the #1 reason to get the SWIVL IMO. The audio quality is outstanding. A biology professor I was working with had very good results on a windy day in Tucson using Swivl with the included lapel mic.

    It’s just a very easy way to record lectures with good audio quality on the fly. They’re releasing a new Swivl model by end of year. It works with iOS, Android, DSLR, etc. Since the new Swivl will support iPads and tablets, you can use it as a teleprompter during the presentation as well so the speaker doesn’t have to look at a computer in front of them or projection behind them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *